[Two Pronged] Why don't I feel satisfied?
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer:
Good day to you. I've never imagined that sooner I'll be seeking your advice on some matters that really confuses me up to this moment. Please call me Erin, I'm 23 years old, too young to settle down as they say. I have a boyfriend and we're turning three years now though he's my junior for about a year.
We're both happy, contented with what he has and almost can't ask for anything more, at first.
But sooner as time goes by, I began searching for something in our relationship. Whenever I see my friends posting their engagement rings, others got married and some of them having their baby already, I'm envious. I keep pretending that it's fine, we will also go to that stage, but I feel inferior, especially when I learned I'm suffering from PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome so it's gonna be hard for us to have our own child.
Now, I don't know what to do. I keep myself pre-occupied so to avoid thinking about them. I even do things to distract my attention whenever I wanted to do "it" with him because we decided to abstain on that. But I don't know if how long I can handle myself since it's been a year we stopped doing that.
Now I'm confused with myself. Am I missing something, or I'm not happy with what I have now?
Thank you for your email.
You raise three distinct but interconnected issues: your desire for marriage and children, your PCOS diagnosis and your current unhappiness with your joint continuing decision to have embraced abstinence a year ago.
Absent, however, is any indication of how your boyfriend (let’s call him Ted) feels about any of these, or indeed if he even has any idea of how you feel.
Most people reach a stage in their lives when they begin to think about marriage and children, even if they then decide that one or both are not for them. Of course, nature can intrude on the process and unplanned pregnancies can occur, which more often than not will lead to motherhood, though not necessarily matrimony.
Having a child is a life changing event which imposes a lifelong responsibility as well as the attendant joys of parenthood. It is not to be entered into lightly and you would be well advised to make sure that you and Ted have carefully thought through all the issues before you take any steps towards this goal.
That said, it appears that you are actually more concerned with keeping up with your friends, otherwise known as conformity, than a deeply felt desire for motherhood. The irony, of course, is that all your friends who are knee deep in the problems of small children, kindergarten, infant illnesses etc. will be envying you and your single life (probably without admitting it).
Perhaps you should look more deeply into why you are so anxious to follow your friends down the path of motherhood rather than enjoy the single life. You yourself admit that at 23, you are too young to settle down yet that is apparently your goal. Does life have nothing else to offer you or is it that because you suffer from PCOS you think you need all the time available to you to try to conceive?
Turning finally to your decision to embrace sexual abstinence, it is unfortunate that you give no reason for this. Often, it is the result of religious concerns and therefore not within the remit of this column; if you choose to believe that sex before marriage, or eating fish on Fridays, is sinful because some old bearded man sitting on a cloud says so, that is your privilege.
Comfort yourself by remembering that in these instances most religions preach the same message: the benefit is in direct relation to the pain, so the more you suffer the greater the reward in the future. Of course we can measure the pain because it is in the here and now. No one has ever been able to confirm that the reward after death is actually forthcoming.
Should your decision to abstain not be based on religion but on a fear of an unwanted pregnancy, then consider contraception or, if you still have concerns, just remember that sex comes in many different forms which can be highly pleasurable without running the risks that you wish to avoid.
If, however, you have some other reason, maybe you could write to us again.
Thank you very much for your letter. I agree with Mr Baer that it is important to share your feelings with your boyfriend “Ted.” In my clinical experience, greater communication between a couple leads to better relationships.
In addition to communicating more openly with Ted, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) would be something else to consider. Two Pronged has discussed this several times in the past. You can read this, this, or this.
CBT is based on the belief that it’s not events themselves that upset us, but the meanings we give them. Thus, its goal is to change patterns of thinking that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel.
Our thoughts can block us from seeing things or doing things that don’t fit what we believe is true. CBT can be most effective when clearly, the problem is mainly how you perceive things, rather than what is objectively there.
For example, deciding to abstain from sex is what is objectively there. But whether you are happy, sad, etc. about this decision is due to how you perceive it.
The same goes for the other problems you share with us —mainly due to your perception of them — except your having PCOS which in actual fact may contribute to your having difficulty getting pregnant. Still, your thoughts about PCOS and your having it can affect how you feel about it.
There are several reasons I feel you are an excellent candidate for CBT:
You wrote: “some matters that really confuses me up to this moment.” The mere fact that you are aware of how you feel—confused—is a very big step. Confucius is credited with saying “There are 4 kinds of people in this world: one who knows not but knows not he knows not,… shun him; …one who knows not but knows that he knows not…teach him; one who knows but knows not he knows… awaken him; one who knows and knows that he knows…follow him.”
The particular problems you’ve shared with us put you in the second category, right, Erin? And we hope this column will teach you the benefits of CBT.
The other statements of your letter 1.) “Whenever I see my friends posting their engagement rings, …(getting) married and…having their baby already, I'm envious” and 2.) “I feel inferior, especially when I learned I'm suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) so it's gonna be hard for us to have our own child” show very clearly how your perception of events and not the events themselves have contributed to your problems.
You are exactly what research shows to be an excellent candidate for CBT: a person who states specific problems because CBT works through having a specific focus and goals. It is less suitable for someone who feels vaguely unhappy or unfulfilled, but who doesn’t have troubling symptoms or a particular aspect of their life they want to work on.
I also feel that, being 23, you are open enough to relate to CBT’s ideas and its problem-solving approach. So please give it a try, ok?
All the best,
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